Design thinking in application development

design thinking team

Many times on this blog we have mentioned that developing apps can be difficult. You need to find answers to hundreds of questions and a wrong answer to any one of them can lead to a failure of the whole project. One of the questions you need to ask yourself is – how would you like to develop your app, from a process or methodology perspective? On our blog, we have already described several different approaches (for example Agile or Waterfall) and this time we would like to outline more about design thinking.

| What is design thinking?

Design thinking is not a new approach to product or services development, but it has gained massive popularity over the last few years. The first ideas around design thinking first appeared around 1960. Probably the first person who ever used the word “design thinking” was L. Bruce Arche, author of the book “Experiences in Visual Thinking”. Design thinking is a final effect of transforming tools and practices reserved for designers into other development processes – like application development.

Design thinking is the method of a practical and creative way of solving problems. It’s focused on the idea that only a deep understanding of the problems and needs of end-users is a guarantee for building a successful product. It is a way of developing products or services that people will love to use. They are designed to change or improve people’s lives and become a trusted brand.

| Design thinking – stages

As previously explained, design thinking is not a one-step process but has several stages, each of the stages leads into the emergence of the next stage.

  • Empathize – This is one of the most important tasks for us at AppTailors. During the development process, you need to feel empathy with the users that will be engaging with your final product. You need to begin to understand their true needs, as well as what they think, what emotions they feel and finally how you can improve their lives through using your product. Remember that inside your product or the development process, there is always a human being. Or actually, more than one, as the main goal of this stage is to reach people with different mindsets, profiles or needs.
  • Define – During this stage, after different interactions with people from different groups, you will be able to define your target group with specified and justified needs. Thanks to this step you will be able to focus on only a few problems designed to assist your target group. There are a lot of different techniques to execute this stage including using the 5-Why method.
  • Ideate – After defining your user problems, you can proceed to the Ideate stage. Here is where you brainstorm with the team to find different solutions for the defined problems. In the Empathize stage, you need to gather people with different profiles as they can have different ideas on how to solve the problem of the target group. It is important to not rate the ideas of your team or be over critical. You should focus on motivating the team to give you as many ideas as possible and step out of their comfort zones. Only unleashed creativity is a guarantee of the best ideas!
  • Prototype – In this stage you begin to convert your ideas into a reality. Together with the team, you choose all your best ideas and try to visualize them by transforming them into prototypes in different forms. Once the prototype is created, you are able to collect the opinions of users and make your idea even more refined. Also, you will be able to identify the strong and weak points of your product or service.
  • Test – Testing of the previously developed ideas is the last stage of the process. It’s the moment where you show your product to your final users. If they accept it – it’s great, you can proceed with the development. If they do not like it, this is the moment where your concept may need to take a few steps back (maybe even to the first stage). The main goal of this stage is to remove the identified product defects or shift back into a stage to help improve the product.
design thinking

| What are the advantages of the design thinking approach?

There are a lot of advantages to implementing design thinking into your product or service with a few outlined here.

  • Lower the chance of developing a product that no one wants to use – If the design thinking process is implemented correctly, you will greatly increase the chance of building a successful final product. Each stage of the process is designed to show you the right way to go forward with development.
  • Faster results – The design thinking process makes all things faster as you work with your team leveraging a wide range of tools and rapid prototyping methodologies. The process is designed to force your team to remain productive. Some people even claim that the team can start working on the idea after 10 minutes of design thinking!
  • Innovation – The process is linear, but it forces people to think out-of-the-box and encourages creative solutions. Your team might be bored by developing products based on old methods, that’s why it might be a good move to give them more freedom with design thinking. Switching to a design thinking process could expose new needs of your customers and this can deliver new ways of satisfying them.
  • Innovation – The process is linear, but it forces people to think out-of-the-box and encourages creative solutions. Your team might be bored by developing products based on old methods, that’s why it might be a good move to give them more freedom with design thinking. Switching to a design thinking process could expose new needs of your customers and this can deliver new ways of satisfying them.
  • Higher customer satisfaction – Customer satisfaction is one of the main goal and focus of design thinking. Your customer is always at the centre of your product development. Thanks to the advanced tests and empathy, you are able to simply better understand who your customer is, what their problems are and how to develop the best solution to solve them.

| What are the disadvantages of the design thinking approach?

Like every product development methodology, design thinking does have a few disadvantages with most of them are related to the standard of teamwork.

  • Suppression of individuality – Often one person might have some good ideas, but because of their individual personality, they might not be able to express and/or convince the team of their viewpoint. That’s why a good moderator is one of the most important members of the team. The moderator role should be to identify these kinds of good ideas and strengthen them during the team forum meetings.
  • Domination of the individual – Occasionally someone on the team might be carrying a much higher influence on the project than the team as a whole. This may cause a situation that will drive the project towards a specific person's ideal(s). Once again, the role of a good moderator is crucial here to establish a balance among the team.
  • Low level of responsibility – Each individual person working in the team may feel that the responsibility is on someone else to complete a specific task. Other team members might feel that the next step should be done by someone else. When no one takes on the responsibility, there might be a situation where the team will go into a risky direction that isn't really beneficial to the project. The responsibility of every team member should be well defined at each stage of the project.

| Summary

The design thinking approach has been deeply embraced at AppTailors, as it is a very effective methodology to truly understand the needs of the end-users specifically for mobile or web app development. In many of our projects, we have successfully implemented design thinking which has helped us to satisfy our customer needs. We would strongly recommend giving it a try with your team!

-Best of luck!